Many of the spring beef bull sales are now wrapped-up and cow-calf producers have purchased bull power for the 2012 breeding season. Calculating the service cost per cow with new bull values may surprise you. Many of you should calculate the bull cost per cow to determine if natural service or AI is a better investment.

A $4,000 yearling bull averaging 25 cows bred over three years will cost $60.06 per pregnancy (includes annual maintenance fees).

One-time AI programs run from $45-$60 for breeding fees, but generally only get 60-80 percent pregnancy rates, so a clean-up bull is still warranted.

The real benefit comes with selection of the bull to match individual cows and subsequent calf markets. Bull quality improves with AI options, thus increasing the value of calves and replacement animals in your operation.

AI requires increased handling and management. For many cow-calf producers, the handling hurdle is too great.

If you need a starting point, try AI breeding your replacement heifers and see how calving heifers early in one group can improve your success. This option also allows for the use of high accuracy calving ease bulls without owning another bull.

Combining AI with natural service works best for most producers, so we generally still need the bull for clean-up.

Anyone with questions about AI programs for your beef operations should start by working with a local AI technician.

(Cattlemen using bulls for breeding purposes should be aware that a good one can help capitalize on up markets. For details, click here. And with high beef prices, a bull soundness exam is more important than ever. Next spring, you’ll want to follow the guidelines at